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Appeal court calls flaws in Dennis Oland trial ‘serious error of law’

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WATCH ABOVE: The New Brunswick Court of Appeal’s decision to quash Dennis Oland’s second-degree murder conviction is now under the microscope. Global’s’ Jeremy Keefe has the details of the decision – Jan 12, 2017

The text of Chief Justice Ernest Drapeau’s decision to overturn Dennis Oland‘s murder conviction is shedding new light on the reasons behind the controversial order for a new trial.

Oland’s conviction for the July 2011 killing of his father, prominent businessman Richard Oland, was overturned on Oct. 25,  2016, and a day later he was granted bail as he waits for a new trial date to be set.

READ MORE: Dennis Oland granted bail ahead of new murder trial in father’s death

In its decision, the Supreme Court disagrees with Oland’s legal team’s claims that the guilty verdict is unreasonable and he should be acquitted, but they agree a new trial is necessary due to “critical misdirection in the charge to the jury.”

Their decision to overturn the conviction ultimately came down to the trial judge’s instruction to the jury regarding Oland’s statement to police about the colourof the jacket he was wearing on the day his father was killed.

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In his statement, Oland said he’d been wearing a navy jacket, however he was actually wearing a brown jacket with his father’s DNA on it.

The prosecution argued during the trial that Oland purposely misled police during his statement. The court of appeal say Justice Jack Walsh gave jurors flawed direction on how to deal with that evidence.

READ MORE: Why a single piece of evidence mattered so much in Dennis Oland murder case

The written decision says that Walsh didn’t explain to the jury that even if Oland had lied about the colour of his jacket, it had “no probative value” unless they determined through other evidence that the lie was told to “conceal his involvement in the murder of his father.”

“Regrettably, the trial judge did not apply this framework and, in the result, his instructions on a key piece of the evidential puzzle are fundamentally flawed,” the decision reads.

The decision also says the Crown’s theory that Oland lied about the jacket colour was a key piece of the case against Oland, and that “the judge’s erroneous instructions in respect of that ‘lie’ constitute a serious error of law.”

The court’s decision goes on to say there’s no indication that the judge gave any correction to the jury in the rest of his charge, therefore they agree another trial should be ordered.

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READ MORE: Dennis Oland’s lawyer says ‘mistake’ about jacket not a sign of guilt

The decision goes on to say this is not “a case where the evidence pointing to guilt is so overwhelming that the outcome would necessarily have been the same with or without the error.”

New Brunswick prosecutors announced last week they intend to appeal the Supreme Court decision to grant Oland a new trial. They will have 10 days to review Drapeau’s decision before applying for leave to appeal.

Read the entire decision here: 

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